Rick Scott Archives - Florida Politics

Gil Langley: Post-Session reflection on tourism marketing

Last week, Gov. Rick Scott announced record-breaking tourism numbers in the Sunshine State. It may be the last time for a while. Ignoring extensive research, case studies and pleas from travel industry constituents across the state, the Florida Legislature slashed funding for VISIT Florida by a crippling 67 percent — recklessly jeopardizing the tourism industry’s leading role as a generator of jobs and government revenues.

A $25 million budget to market Florida, one of the world’s top travel destinations, is not conducive to success on any front – job creation, revenue increases or lower taxes for Florida residents. By cutting off funds for advertising, marketing, and promotion, Florida will essentially surrender the gains made over the past several years while global competitors steal market share.

Contrary to assertions made by some elected officials, vacation destinations do not sell themselves. Every great product needs to make potential customers aware of the benefits their product offers – and why it is a better choice than the alternative. That is why California spends more than $100 million every year to market their state, even with well-known major attractions such as Disneyland, Hollywood, the Golden Gate Bridge and great beaches.

Tourism is an incredibly competitive industry. Not only are we competing against 49 other states (some with eight-figure marketing budgets), we are battling destinations across the globe to get the attention of potential visitors. Mexico, the Bahamas and Cuba are thrilled Florida’s travel marketing budget has been reduced, allowing them to gain market share while VISIT Florida goes silent in the marketplace.

These cuts were approved despite warnings from experts in government and the private sector. Detailed case studies about states like Colorado and Washington (who cut tourism marketing, only to lose jobs, revenues and market share) provided a cautionary tale ignored. Prestigious organizations such as Florida TaxWatch conducted economic studies demonstrating VISIT Florida’s return on investment, proving investing in tourism is good public policy.

Our elected officials have demonstrated they know the importance of consistent messaging. Legislators raised $73 million for election campaigns in 2016 – even though 57 seats were uncontested. They spent money to keep the voters informed of the job they do, and explained why they should continue to serve. Reminding vacationers of why Florida is a great choice for their family follows the same principle.

The decision to slash tourism marketing funding and create barriers to VISIT Florida’s success negatively impacts every single Floridian. Less marketing means fewer visitors and fewer visitors means less tax revenue to fund necessary public projects such as schools, beaches, parks, roads and other infrastructure. Even if the entire $61 million cut were dedicated to other programs, the impact would be minimal. For example, according to FDOT, $61 million would construct only 4 miles of urban interstate – in a state with nearly 1,500 miles of interstate. On a larger scale, the $61 million cut from VISIT Florida’s budget would fund state government operations for just five hours out of the year. Invested in marketing the state, however, those same funds would generate over $160 million in new state and local tax revenue that could support transportation, education and senior services. It is also important to note VISIT Florida represents a minuscule portion of the state’s budget, yet any decrease in funding will result in significant ramifications. Even if VISIT Florida were funded at Governor Scott’s recommendation of $100 million, 98.7 percent of the state’s budget would be left for other priorities.

I live and work in the small coastal community of Amelia Island, a community that is twice as dependent on tourism as the average Florida county. We are especially concerned about the budget cuts’ impact to rural communities. To a degree, large urban destinations, mega resorts and world-famous theme parks can rely on global brand recognition, but many of Florida’s hidden gems will be left without the resources to market themselves. For Nassau County, the potential impacts are frightening.

Tourist spending generates 37 percent of the sales taxes generated here. Over 25 percent of the workforce have jobs in the hospitality business. Tourist spending provides a net gain of $40 million to County government, saving every household in the County $2,748 in state and local taxes. If tourism declines, it means fewer jobs, fewer services and potentially increased taxes on residents.

Just as in Nassau County, other hardworking Floridian families will suffer, too. A TaxWatch study analyzed the economic impact of the new tourism promotion budget, and found that reducing funding to $25 million means a loss of at least 5 million tourists. With a 5 percent tourism downturn, every household in Florida would have to be taxed an additional $1,535 a year to replace the lost state and local taxes generated from visitor activity. Perhaps even more disheartening are the 70,000 jobs that will be lost due to fewer visitors.

Our hope is that before tourism losses mount in 2018, legislators will reverse course and fully fund a marketing effort that maintains our status as the Earth’s most popular family destination. If not, jobs will be lost, small businesses will be harmed and tax revenue will be diminished. Objectively evaluating the return on investment clearly proves tourism works for Florida – and supporting it financially is a wise move for all our citizens.

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Gil Langley is chair of the Florida Association of Destination Marketing Organizations, the statewide association representing county tourism promotion agencies.

 

Jeff Clemens endorses Andrew Gillum for Governor

Add Sen. Jeff Clemens to the list of Democratic leaders backing Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

The Gillum campaign announced Wednesday that Clemens, the Senate Democratic Leader-designate, has endorsed Gillum’s 2018 gubernatorial bid. In a statement, Clemens called Gillum a “bold leader whose vision will transform Florida.”

“Andrew will prioritize the people we serve, not the privileged few who have had their way in Tallahassee for decades,” said Clemens. “Strong values like top-flight education for every child, an economy that works for workers as well as small business owners, and healthcare that protects the vulnerable by covering Floridians with pre-existing conditions.”

Clemens went on to say that Gillum is the best person to “challenge the status quo.”

“Andrew knows we can do better, and I have confidence he will make the Legislature do its job,” he said.

Gillum is one of three Democrats currently vying to replace Gov. Rick Scott in 2018. Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Orlando businessman Chris King have also filed to run.

“It’s an honor to receive Leader Designate Jeff Clemens’ endorsement. He is a true champion for Florida’s working people, and as a former Mayor, he knows the critical importance of building strong communities everywhere in Florida,” said Gillum in a statement. “I look forward to working with him to build an economy that serves all Floridians – not the special interests.”

 

Raquel Regalado announces bid to replace Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Add Raquel Regalado to the list of politicos vying to replace Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Congress.

Regalado, a former Miami-Dade school board member, announced Tuesday she was running to replace Ros-Lehtinen in Florida’s 27th Congressional District. The Miami Herald reported she is the second big-name Republican to enter the race, after Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro.

Republican Maria Peiro has also filed to run, and the Herald reported Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera has considered running for the spot.

Regalado is a 42-year-old mother of two, who has a history of crossing party lines. POLITICO Florida reported Regalado, the daughter of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, backed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink in 2010 over Republican Rick Scott. She endorsed Scott in his 2014 re-election grid. And in 2016, she challenged Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, a fellow Republican. Gimenez won, 56 percent to Regalado’s 44 percent.

Ros-Lehtinen announced earlier this year she plans to retire when her term ends in 2018. Democrats look at the seat as a possible pick-up, since Hillary Clinton won the district by 20 percentage points. The district includes parts of coastal Miami-Dade, including Miami Beach.

State Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez has said he plans to run for the seat, and is the most favored to take the Democratic nomination. He’ll face Democrats Scott Fuhrman, who ran against Ros-Lehtinen in 2016, and Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez.

Rick Scott signs 16 bills into law

Foster families will get free annual passes to Florida state parks under a bill signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday.

Sponsored by Rep. Larry Lee in the House and Sen. Aaron Bean in the Senate, the new law provides families who operate a licensed family foster home free family annual passes and a discount on base campsite fees at Florida State Parks. Families who adopt children with special needs would be eligible to receive a one-time family annual entrance pass to the Florida State Parks.

It also requires the Division of Recreation and Parks to work with the Department of Children and Families to identify the types of documentation needed to establish eligibility for discounts.

The law requires the division to continue to partner with DCF to promote foster care and the adoption of children with special needs through events held during National Foster Care Month and National Adoption Month.

The law goes into effect on July 1.

The bill was one of 16 the governor signed into law on Wednesday. The Naples Republican also signed a claims bill to compensate Victor Barahona $3.75 million in an abuse case that took the life of his sister, Nubia.

He also signed into law a bill (HB 711) that would reduce registration fees for recreational vessels equipped with an emergency position-indicating radio beacon or where the owner owns a personal locator beacon.

Lawmakers in 2016 reduced registration fees for boat owners with the emergency radio beacon or personal locator. That fee reduction, however, was applicable for vessels registered between July 1, 2016 and June 30.

The new law further lowers the fees, and removes the repeal of the vessel registration discounts.

“Just two years ago, we suffered the heartbreaking loss of two teenagers after sailing from the Jupiter Inlet,” said Scott in a statement. “This important legislation encourages the use of safety measures to ensure this kind of tragedy never happens again. I’m proud to continue our efforts to keep Florida’s families and visitors safe by signing HB 711 today.”

The new fee reduction goes into effect July 1, 2017.

The governor also signed into law:

— SB 80, which requires judges to award attorney fees if they find an agency broke the public records law and a “requestor” gave five days’ notice before filing suit.

 — HB 7041, a bill dealing with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation fees

— SB 818, a bill dealing with timeshares

— SB 852, a bill dealing with human trafficking

— SB 884, a bill that codifies a prohibition against shark finning established by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

— SB 886, a public records exemption bill

— SB 1020, a bill dealing with collective bargaining impasses

— HB 1233, a bill making it easier for cottage food operations to sell and accept payment for goods over the internet

— HB 7045, a bill dealing with the OGSR/reports of Unclaimed Property

— HB 7067, A Review Under the Open Government Sunset Review Act, and

— HB 7107, the homestead exemption implementation

 

Rick Scott signs claims bill for abuse survivor Victor Barahona

Gov. Rick Scott agreed the state needs to pay the remainder of a $5 million settlement to a boy found doused in chemicals while his twin decomposed in the back of their father’s pesticide truck.

Scott signed the claims bill (SB 18) to pay Victor Barahona $3.75 million in an abuse case that took the life of his twin sister, Nubia.

The twins suffered extreme abuse by their adoptive parents, and in 2011, he was found suffering chemical burns along Interstate 95. He was 10 years old at the time.

The Department of Children and Families has been criticized for allowing Jorge and Carmen Barahona to adopt the children despite signs of abuse.

According to a special master’s report provided to the Florida Senate, there were allegations of medical neglect in 2004. The report noted the department became aware that there were reports of sexual abuse, and the children’s school appeared to make several reports of abuse.

The final report of abuse came on Feb. 10, 2011, when, according to the report, a therapist for the Barahona’s niece said the two were tied “by their hands and feet with tape and made to stay in the bathtub day and night as a form of punishment.”

The children were found on the side of I-95 in Palm Beach County on Feb. 14, 2011. The Barahonas have been charged with murder, according to the Miami Herald.

A report commissioned by then-DCF Secretary David Wilkins found the agency’s “failure in common sense, critical thinking, ownership, follow-through, and timely and accurate information-sharing” defined the care of Nubia and Victor.

DCF initially agreed to pay $5 million to the family and had already paid $1.25 million.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.

Fate of program for disabled children rests with Rick Scott

Debby Dawson, who lives in southwest Florida, has a simple message to Gov. Rick Scott: The state’s existing scholarship program for disabled children is “life changing” and has helped her 7-year-old autistic son “develop by leaps and bounds.”

Dawson is part of a chorus of parents from around the state who have mounted a campaign through letters, emails and phone calls urging the Republican governor to sign a sweeping education bill that will soon come to his desk.

But that same bill has sparked an outpouring of an even larger negative reaction to Scott both directly and on social media.

School superintendents, the state’s teacher union, parent-teacher groups and Democrats have called on the governor to veto the bill. Even Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the leading Republican candidate for governor in 2018, called the legislation a “train wreck” on Tuesday and said Scott should take a “hard look” at vetoing the bill.

That’s because GOP legislators crafted the 300-page bill largely in secret, and included in it portions that would steer more state and local money to privately-run charter schools. The legislation (HB 7069) also mandates recess in elementary schools, expands virtual education courses to private and home schooled students, and tweaks Florida’s testing system.

Scott, who supported the creation of the scholarship program, has not yet said what he plans to do.

But if he vetoes the bill, however, he will wipe out an extra $30 million for the Gardiner Scholarship program that provides tuition, therapy and other services to roughly 8,000 disabled students. Legislators included $73 million in the state budget for scholarships, but those who operate the program say it is growing and they may not have enough money to serve everyone without the extra money. Additionally, legislators passed a separate bill that would expand those eligible for the program.

That’s why Dawson wrote Scott asking him to sign the bill. She said without the extra money her other son – who is about to turn 3-years-old – may not get a scholarship in the coming year.

“As a parent who has seen how life changing this grant is, and knowing my second child may not have the same opportunities as my oldest, it is heartbreaking, to say the least,” Dawson wrote in an email to a reporter. “This grant opens up doors for our children where the doors were once shut and locked tight.”

Legislative leaders have not given a detailed explanation on why they put the extra money for the scholarship program in the bill, which was not released publicly until two days before a final vote. Initially, the state Senate had more than $100 million in its budget for the program but then agreed to lower it during budget negotiations.

Sen. Jack Latvala, the budget chairman, said the decision to include the money in the bill and not the budget was at the urging of House Speaker Richard Corcoran. When asked Corcoran called it a “compromise” since the House did not include the higher amount in its initial budget.

Sen. Gary Farmer, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat opposed to the bill, argued that legislative leaders crafted the legislation this way in order to make it harder for Scott to veto the bill.

“I was deeply disturbed that (the families of disabled children) were hijacked and used as pawns to mollify opposition to an otherwise bad bill,” Farmer said.

School choice advocates, including former Gov. Jeb Bush, are asking Scott to sign the bill. Former Senate President Andy Gardiner, who has a son with Down syndrome and helped create the program, said he hopes the “governor is mindful” that the bill isn’t just about charter schools and that many families will be affected by his decision.

Barbara Beasley, whose 9-year-old daughter receives a Gardiner scholarship, says it has dramatically improved her daughter’s life, but she said that “lawmakers sold us down the river with their backroom dealing on the education bill.” She said other parts of the legislation are detrimental to public schools and should be stopped.

“I beg Governor Scott to order lawmakers back to session to fix their mistakes, separate these items from the bad and push them through,” Beasley said.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Florida leaders react to the bombing at a concert in Manchester

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility Tuesday for the suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester that left 22 people dead and sparked a stampede of young concertgoers.

The attack was the deadliest in Britain since four suicide bombers killed 52 London commuters on subway trains and a bus in July 2005.

Here is a compilation of reaction from Florida’s elected officials and leaders about the tragedy:

— Sen. Marco Rubio on Twitter: “Our prayers are with the people of Manchester.”

— U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist on Twitter: “My thoughts and prayers are with Britain and the families impacted by this horrific act in Manchester.”

— U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo on Twitter: “Praying for the people of Manchester.”

— U.S. Rep. Val Demings on Twitter : “Standing with and praying for Manchester today.  Another cowardly attack against innocent people.”

— U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch on Twitter: “Tonight in #Manchester, enormous amounts of horror, grief, and pain. From America and beyond, we join you in sympathy, outrage and resolve.”

— U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn on Facebook: “Leah and I send our sincere condolences to the British people as they respond to another heinous act of terrorism. The events in Manchester remind us again that these vicious killers will consider any target, even a crowd of teenagers and children at a music concert. We stand with resolve alongside our British friends in the face of this threat.”

— U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings: “I offer my deepest sympathies to the families of the victims of yesterday’s terror attack in Manchester. As England’s law enforcement continues working to establish the full details of this horrific attack against innocent children and families, the American people stand side-by-side in grief, anger, and resolve. My thoughts and prayers continue to be with the city of Manchester and all of England as they come to terms with this terrible atrocity.”

— U.S. Rep. Al Lawson on Twitter: “Our thoughts and prayers are with #Manchester and the United Kingdom for all the victims of tonight’s attack. Such sad news.”

— U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz: “As I am writing yet another statement expressing horror and condolences after another inexplicable terror attack, I feel the angst and anger of a mother who has sent my children off to a concert just like last night’s in Manchester.

The terror attack that apparently targeted innocent young people was a truly despicable act committed by cowards. As Americans, we are heartbroken and horrified by this mass murder of young adults and even children, but make no mistake: our resolve to make our world a safer one for our children is only strengthened, and our commitment to working with our British ally in pursuit of that goal remains unshakeable.

Our thoughts are now with the victims, their families and all the people of Manchester. And while many facts are still unknown, Americans will not waver in seeking justice and standing up against the hate that motivates such heinous crimes. And we will never let these pretenders who hold themselves out as the only true defenders of Islam to be recognized as anything more than what they are: murderers.”

— Gov. Rick Scott on Twitter: “Praying for everyone in Manchester tonight. This is an absolute tragedy and our hearts are with those who were harmed and their loved ones. Also praying for the safety and security of Manchester of law enforcement and first responders during this unimaginably challenging time.”

On Tuesday morning, the governor tweeted: “(First Lady Ann Scott) and I continue to pray for the 22 innocent lives lost in the senseless act of hate and terror in Manchester last night. Florida stands with the British people.”

— Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera on Twitter: “Horrible and senseless. We mourn those lost and pray for swift justice.”

— Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam on Twitter: “Terrorists who take the lives of innocent people are nothing but cowards & they must be brought to justice. My prayers to Manchester.”

— Democrat Gwen Graham on Twitter: “As a mom, my heart breaks. Praying for the children and families, parents and grandparents in Manchester.”

— Democrat Andrew Gillum on Twitter: “Deeply saddened by #Manchester tonight. Prayers to the families affected & the UK.

— House Speaker Richard Corcoran on Twitter: “My deepest sympathies and prayers for strength go out to the victims, parents, & families of the terror attack in the U.K.”

— Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto on Twitter: “Prayers to our British friends this evening. What a horrible tragedy.”

— Sen. Debbie Mayfield on Twitter: “My heart goes out to those in Manchester, especially to the families and first responders. Our prayers are with you and the United States of America will always stand by you.”

— Rep. Chris Sprowls on Twitter: “Our hearts are with the families of those killed in #ManchesterArena last night. May we unite together to eliminate terror.”

— Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn on Twitter: “My prayers go out to those in Manchester, as a Father of 2 little girls, I can’t imagine what these families are going through.”

— Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry on Twitter: “Outrage!!–Manchester terrorist attack. Tears & prayers for the victims and families.”

— State Attorney Melissa Nelson: “We’re all grieving for the victims and those affected by yesterday’s bombing in Manchester.

The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.

Eric Eisnaugle makes House departure official

Call him former state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle now.

The Republican from Windermere announced his resignation would come on the last day of Florida’s Legislative Session to accept an appointment to Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeals, but delayed the actual departure until late last week.

With his now official resignation — spelled out in a letter last Thursday to Speaker Richard Corcoran — Eisnaugle officially opens the way for the Florida Division of Elections and Rick Scott to set dates for special elections in Florida’s House District 44, covering western Orange County.

Already that race has drawn five candidates: Republicans Dr. Usha Jain, John Newstreet, Bobby Olszewski, and Bruno Portigliatti; and Democrat Paul Chandler.

Eisnaugle asked Corcoran to leave the district office open so that the staff may continue to serve the district.

Rick Scott highlights Enterprise Florida success story in Jacksonville

Monday saw Florida Gov. Rick Scott on yet another trip to Jacksonville, where he highlighted job growth at a medical technology company.

That company — Sunoptic Technologies — has benefited from one of Scott’s key initiatives, Enterprise Florida, which in addition to offering economic incentives also provided a global stage for the mid-sized company over the years, via showcasing it and other companies globally at events like MEDICA, a German trade show for the industry.

“In early 2013, Sunoptic Technologies signed a new exclusive distributor to serve the Japanese market. We chose to participate in the Florida Pavilion at MEDICA because the exposure we will get will help us create new international clients like our Japanese distributor. Thanks to Enterprise Florida, Sunoptic Technologies can focus on our customers and products and work on expanding internationally,” said David Mutch, Director of Sunoptic Technologies, in 2013.

Mutch enthused again about EFI in 2016, as his company readied for another German junket: ““Enterprise Florida’s participation at MEDICA is a key component of our marketing plan … As a small business, it would be very difficult to participate on our own. We would never be able to present ourselves in a positive, professional way. The services provided also enable us to have a larger presence.”

Rick Scott’s strategy — jobs, jobs, jobs — sounds simple. And incentives are often poorly understood by media and politicians. But in the case of Sunoptic, an Enterprise Florida success story, Scott clearly believes the story is worth telling.

And tell it he did.

Sunoptic is a company that has seen its revenue quadruple during the Enterprise Florida era, with 75 employees and 10 percent year over year revenue growth.

Gov. Scott attributed this to a number of factors, including Enterprise Florida trade shows and an environment in Jacksonville, facilitated by the Mayor and the City Council, that just “gets things done.”

After inserting what is now a familiar riposte against “politicians in Tallahassee that turned back” Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. Scott passed the mike to Mayor Lenny Curry, who had his own thoughts on the city’s wave of economic success.

Curry noted that “the recipe in Jacksonville” is “just right” for business expansion and relocation.

Council President Lori Boyer — in whose district the company operates — lauded Scott for being “singularly focused” on jobs, noting that Jacksonville’s strong economic metrics (4 percent unemployment; 3.7 percent job growth in 2016) provide evidence that the Rick Scott approach works.

“That’s a legacy,” Boyer said about the numbers.

Scott noted in his post-event comments that, despite a record of strong economic performance, the state’s economic motor is beginning to sputter.

“If your growth rate in something slowed down, that would concern you. That’s happening in our state,” Scott said.

“If you look at our overall job growth numbers,” Scott said, and compare them to a year ago, “they’re not as fast as they used to be.

The same is true for construction and hospitality.

Scott attributed that, again, to “politicians in Tallahassee turning their back on Enterprise Florida.”

Rick Scott sets special election dates to fill House seat being vacated by Jose Felix Diaz

South Florida voters will have more than one race on their ballot this summer.

Gov. Rick Scott signed an executive order Monday calling a special election to replace Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in House District 116. Diaz resigned his seat to run in the special election to replace Sen. Frank Artiles in Senate District 40.

The House District 116 special primary will be held on July 25, with the special general election scheduled for Sept. 26. Those are the same dates as Senate District 40 special elections.

Diaz sent a letter to the Florida Division of Elections on May 17 resigning from the Florida House effective Sept. 26.

Florida law requires candidates who currently hold an elected position to resign their seat in order to run for another position, if the terms overlap. The law does not apply to candidates seeking federal office.

Republican Lorenzo Palomares Starbuck has also filed to run in Senate District 40. On the Democratic side, former state Rep. Ana Rivas Logan and Annette Taddeo, who ran for Congress in 2016 and was former Gov. Charlie Crist’s running mate in 2014, have announced they are running.

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